Remember when Yasiel Puig took the league by storm in 2013 by bursting onto the scene, hitting .319 with 19 HR, 11 SB, 66 Runs and 42 RBI in only 104 games?
The news that Soler will be getting his shot in the Chicago outfield is pretty much the 2014 version of the Yasiel Puig story. The only major difference is that he won’t get a chance to play in 100 or even 50 games to close the year. On the bright side, he’ll be their everyday right fielder from here on out and has the potential to be one of baseball’s most fun and intriguing young players to watch play the game.
This is a post that I shared late last year (2014) that still holds a great amount of value today. Jorge Soler looks like a stud in the making, and I’ve taken the time to go deep into why I feel that way.
Theo Epstein has made it a point to bring up his young players to the big leagues to show what they can do this year. I talked a ton about Arismendy Alcantara the entire offseason and throughout the year (here and here). We also profiled Kyle Hendricks as a sleeper prospect who would make an impact as soon as they cleared room for him in the rotation, once Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija left for Oakland. Javier Baez was then brought to Chicago as the next shiny new toy… and he’s made one heck of a splash too (despite the absurd K rate, but that was to be expected). Kris Bryant will get his chance next year, but today and Wednesday is all about Jorge Soler.
Thinking back to the 2013 offseason as we were all getting ready for our drafts last year – Jorge Soler was almost unanimously ranked ahead of Yasiel Puig on prospect lists. It’s funny to see how much things can change over the course of a season. However, that fact alone is what opens my eyes about the type of impact that Soler has the potential to have on fantasy baseball teams from now until the end of the year… he’s an immediate add in every league 10 teams or larger.
At the time of posting, he is only 14% owned in Yahoo! Leagues – so there is still time for you to run and grab him if he’s still out there in your free agent wire.
So – that’s the background on what makes the 22-year-old Soler such an exciting talent. But what can we expect him to produce in the world of fantasy baseball?
Power & Average
He’s got plenty of it. With ISO ratings of .446 in AA (22 games) and .315 in AAA (31 games) this year – there’s no mistake he can drive the ball. Obviously he won’t hold this number through to the majors over the course of a full season, but he could easily rank in the top 20 in this department in the MLB. The sample sizes are limited this year with only 200 at bats to his name in 2014, but he does have 15 home runs on the season… He’s easy to project for 20+ HR with the upside to hit 30 or more as he hits his prime.
On the batting average front, there are reasons for optimism as well. Across his 544 minor league at bats, he has a career .307 mark (thanks in large part to an inflated .338 BABIP). He won’t sustain that at the major league level, but his ability to make consistent, hard contact will help him keep this about .300 on average. We can therefore expect an average in the range of .255 – .280 depending where his luck nets out year to year.
This is a bit of an unknown as he only has 17 steals in his minor league career, but a grand total of 0 so far in 2014… but that’s a function of only having attempt to run once. The fact he hasn’t stolen a base at AA or AAA this year is concerning to me. Reports are that he does have the ability to run, despite the fact he hasn’t done so in the steals department this year. So my expectations are that he’ll be able to add 8-10 steals over the course of a full year… but anything beyond that is unrealistic.
For a prospect with his kind of hit tool, it’s not surprising to see that his K rate in 2014 is over 20% in the minors. But his walk rate is promising, with a 15.2% mark in AA and 13.6% in AAA. This is almost always exposed further at the big league level, so it won’t surprise me one bit to see his MLB rates play out as approximately 8% for a walk rate (10% tops) and 25%+ in the strikeout department. History with prospects shows that he will struggle early on to maintain his minor league rates, but he will have every opportunity to make the necessary adjustments along the way. The base tools are there – he’ll just need to adapt to the MLB level as he gets more experience.[recent_posts count=”3″]
Attitude & Personality
This is an element that is almost always overlooked by fantasy managers. It’s easy to salivate over tools and tools alone – but attitude and personality are huge when it comes to long-term success in sports. Let’s use the Puig example one more time. He has all the talent in the world, but is a complete head case and doesn’t quite know how to keep his stuff together. He makes countless baserunning mistakes. He misses cutoff men in critical situations. He also was arrested twice for reckless driving, with the most recent back in January (check out the story and video here at USA Today for a quick refresher). Issues like this add up and can eventually trump talent over the long haul. If you’re too big of a pain in the ass with your teammates and your manager – you may eventually find yourself out of a job.
For Soler – the reports are much more positive. He’s a great kid with a winning attitude, and is loved by his teammates (especially Kris Bryant, who had nothing but glowing things to say about him – check out the story here at the Chicago Tribune). He did have a bit of an outburst back in April 2013 when he lost his cool in a heated incident with Carlos Alonso, but I take this as a display of his passion for the game. That was also a year and a half ago and he hasn’t had anything like this happen since then. It’s a sign of maturity. Don’t forget he’s only 22. I’m a lot more confident projecting Soler (vs. Puig) to have a very positive and lasting impact on the Cubs for the long haul, mainly due to the fact he has a much better attitude and personality to his name.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there is a lot to like about Jorge Soler from both a fantasy and real baseball perspective. He will step in for the Cubs as their long term solution in right field and should quickly become a key part of their lineup for years to come. His power is legitimate and his average won’t hurt you much. He’ll sprinkle in a bit of speed and should hit in the middle of the order to help drive in runs.
In September, we should see a line for Soler somewhere in the range of:
3 HR, 1 SB, 12 Runs, 16 RBI, .252 AVG
In 2015 he should easily get 600+ plate appearances (assuming he’s healthy) and is capable of:
23 HR, 9 SB, 78 Runs, 84 RBI, .263 AVG
He’ll continue to get better each year, and eventually be an annual threat for 30 HR and 100 RBI. A hands-down must have in NL only leagues as well as just about every keeper and dynasty format. In redraft leagues, expect him to be at least top 30 OF selection next season with the possibility of even being a top 50 player on draft boards should he have a big September.
Sources: Fangraphs.com, BaseballReference.com, ChicagoTribune.com, USAToday.com